BØRNS On Staying Restless & Collaborating With Lana Del Rey: Interview
In 2018, there’s a strong tendency for pop stars to find a formula that works and stick with it. However, BØRNS is determined to defy convention – and we’re all better for it. His newest album, Blue Madonna, veers from a pulsing synth opening, to a string-heavy ballad a la John Lennon at his most whimsical, to a sitar-laden stomper. Bypassing the instant hit, the 26-year-old appears driven to march out into the uncharted sonic landscape and dig up new treasures.
“In 2016, I was pretty green. I was budding. Some flowers were shooting off. I was just starting to perfume the air,” BØRNS said of his first visit to Coachella two years ago when we caught up with him at the festival a couple of weeks ago. “I mean, I’ve done a lot of touring. I mean, I feel like I’ve pretty much kept going since then. I try to challenge myself.”
Like his brand-new music video for “We Don’t Care,” his music happily plucks colorful conventions from past decades to cultivate a new sound that is timeless but overflowing with glimmering reference points. In the video, he dances in leather pants and a blue silk shirt while navigating an ever-changing animated space filled all manner of strange and wonderful things ranging from butterflies and to pop-up ads. It’s a jaunt. Some winsome daydreaming, carefully compiled to behold before smashing it up and creating something new.
Case in point, his track “God Save Our Young Blood,” which features Lana Del Rey’s smoldering vocals. It’s a swaggering, hypnotic call-and-response, the production of which exemplifies BØRNS’ broad ambitions and unique versatility when building a moody track such as this.
“That was one of the first songs I wrote for my second record and then I always kinda pictured her on it,” he explained. “I was actually trying to sing background vocals like her and people were like ‘who’s the girl on it.’ And I was like, it’s just me… It was crazy cause when she heard it, she said, ‘It sounds like I’m already on this.’” As with all of his best tracks, “God Save Our Young Blood” evokes another time and place.
“I’m influenced by a lot of different genres of music,” BØRNS added. “So I’m constantly trying to rework production and make things interesting in the live show and on records. I really wanted to incorporate instruments that I wasn’t hearing anymore. I was listening to a lot of Elton John and Beach Boys stuff. I just love the real texture. I just wanted to give people with different palettes something to listen to. Make them go, ‘What the hell is that instrument?'”
The seed of that chameleon-like fervor is evident in his work from day 1. Beginning with his EP Candy, the singer/songwriter crafted sweeping pop, powerful gems. And these days, he’s building big baroque experiences that are no less infectious. Moreover, they are sprinkled with personality you only find among performers ready to truly explore their abilities.
“As far as playing instruments, it just feels good to have it under your hands,” BØRNS explained while discussing songwriting. “Cause sometimes those instruments have minor imperfections. Sometimes because they’re so old, they’re always out of tune a little bit,” it’s this confident curiosity that adds vibrant character to his tracks — and leads to compelling discoveries.
“It’s like when you’re in a busy subway station. Or you’re in New York City and there’s these natural noises around you. It’s very pleasing. Sometimes they accidentally harmonize… to find the melodies in the chaos.”